Story by Kristina Hoti
The forecast of rain for Mon., Oct. 9 did not deter the many dedicated volunteers and organizers of Pine Island’s 2017 Pumpkinfest. Despite the downpour, the event was a great success, thanks in no small part to Leonard DeBuck, owner of DeBuck’s Sod Farm in Pine Island. DeBuck offered up the use of his large barn, and with the help of some other volunteers, cleared everything that he had stored out of the barn so that it could be used as the main location for Pumpkinfest.
The space was the perfect substitute, providing ample room for the many activities and crafts that were set up for the kids to enjoy that day.
“It’s all what we call FTK: ‘For The Kids,’” DeBuck said. “It’s not about anything other than that. Every pumpkin is unique, just as every child is unique.”
Co-Chairs, Jeanette Shanahan and Janet Zimmerman, started working on this event as early as July, to line up community volunteers and activities.
“It’s not about selling things, but about giving back to the community. That is the priority of the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce,” Zimmerman said.
DeBuck’s barn was filled with many picnic tables set up with paint supplies, which were covered by the $5 entry fee per child, and hundreds of pumpkins, donated by John and Paul Ruszkiewicz, for the children to decorate. Masker Orchards donated bags of apples and gallons of apple cider and Much Right, Inc. donated rocks for children to paint.
Jim and Tuney Leshinski contributed bags of Swizzlers, John Redman set up the Great Pumpkin decoration, and Russ Kowal supplied a speaker system. Leonard DeBuck brought pumpkins as well, including the massive ones that were named “Aunt Lorraine” and “Uncle Louie,” which were used for a “Guess the Pumpkin’s Weight” contest.
Students of the Warwick Valley High School Art Club volunteered to do face painting for the children in attendance. Vanessa Bosch, a senior, explained that the students are required to perform 20 hours of community service prior to graduating.
“You can do 50 hours and you get a special sash to wear at graduation,” said Vanessa Bosch.
To fulfill her 20 hours, Vanessa has donated blood, she carved pumpkins for kids last year, and also volunteered at her grandfather’s church in Rockland County, painting a mural for the children’s room there. She is aiming to reach the 50 hours before she graduates in June.
Miss Pumpkinfest Pageant
For the first time at this year’s Pumpkinfest, there was a Miss Pumpkinfest Pageant. Parents submitted their children’s names and finalists were selected by drawing, as were the runners up and winners.
The finalists were: Mia Giardini, 11, of Florida, NY; Aisha Portugal, 10, of Warwick; Yuvia Portugal, 9, of Warwick; and Olivia Mende, 13, of Warwick. The winner of Miss Pumpkinfest 2017 was Cara Colone, 9, of Pine Island.
Cara attends Sanfordville Elementary School and does community service for the United Martial Arts Center, where she has attained her black belt and is working on her second degree black belt. She has also participated in bake sales for the Warwick Food Pantry, raised money for leukemia, and participated in an anti-bullying workshop.
Flowers for the pageant were donated by Flowers by Lisa and gift baskets for each contestant were donated by Ashlynn Hemmerich, of Island Salon. After the pageant concluded, students of the D’Antonio Dance Academy, which recently moved into the space over Drew’s Garage in Pine Island, performed a spirited dance routine for the crowd.
This year’s Pumpkinfest provided even more fun activities than previous years, including “Touch a Tractor,” where children got to sit on tractors provided by the Ruszkiewicz and DeBuck Farms. Additional activities included crafts, legos, face and henna painting, bubbles, a witch toss, and duck matching.
Animals were on hand for children to see and touch, which were brought by Liz Mann, courtesy of their owner, Liz’s daughter, Shannon. There were three chickens, two ducks, one alpine goat, and one standard poodle, who is a therapy dog. Mann teaches agility, obedience, grooming, and handling, for the 4H dog program.
The Pine Island Fire Department was onsite with a fire truck for kids to explore and fire prevention material available, along with the Pine Island Ambulance and the NYS Trooper “Seat belt convincer.” Warwick Playground Dreams, Family Central, ShopRite, the Pine Island Bible Church, Hudson River Healthcare, Orange County Sports Club, and the Historical Society of the Town of Warwick, were all among the organizations that took part in making the 2017 Pumpkinfest a great success.